‘Desperately needed’: Travel industry praises COVID-19 stimulus package after months-long wait

The travel industry applauded lawmakers after Congressional leaders said Sunday that they reached a deal on a nearly $900 billion COVID-19 relief package.

“We applaud the bipartisan group of senators that drove progress forward, and the congressional leadership for striking a bipartisan agreement to produce this desperately needed assistance,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “The agreed-upon provisions will give many suffering businesses a bridge to 2021.

“More will be needed to restore the 4.5 million travel jobs lost in the travel and tourism industry, but the process that produced this agreement is hopefully a positive sign for what will be possible to achieve in the next Congress. We urge swift action on this important legislation.”

The bill includes an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to businesses to help keep their workforce employed amid the coronavirus crisis.

Until the bill language is complete, exact dollar amounts and specifics related to the travel industry won’t be available. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hailing the “bipartisan breakthrough,” said the bill’s text must be finalized and, barring any “last-minute obstacles,” pass the House and Senate before President Donald Trump can sign it into law. Both chambers are expected to debate and vote on the package Monday.

The measure will be tied to a $1.4 trillion must-pass spending bill that will fund federal agencies and programs through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

The agreement ends months of wrangling between Republicans and Democrats over the type and size of legislation to help the nation weather a pandemic that has killed more than 317,000 Americans, infected millions and shuttered scores of businesses.

President-elect Joe Biden has called the package “a good start,” and Democrats are hopeful that priorities not fully addressed in the relief package will get an extra boost when the new president moves into the White House. 

This final deal was months in the making, and one that failed to pass before the Nov. 3 election.

The Payroll Support Program, a component of the CARES Act, the $2 trillion bipartisan stimulus package signed in March, gave airlines $25 billion to keep them afloat through coronavirus shutdowns but forbade layoffs for six months, ran out Sept. 30.

Absent a new stimulus deal, airlines announced they would begin laying off workers – some 32,000 at United and American airlines combined. Southwest warned it might need to lay off 6,800 workers, the first layoffs in its history. 

Contributing: Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu and Ledyard King, Jayme Deerwester, Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY

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